Album Reviews

Ky: Power Is The Pharmacy

On their latest release, the Montréal-based noise agitator takes us across the fault lines.

Writing about new music almost every day, and sometimes it feels like you’re one step away from being taken hostage by an AI bot. Give it 12 months, perhaps…

Those concerns are thwarted when something totally against the grain of just about every artistic principle lands in your orbit. Essentially, these are the moments when writing about music is worth it.

A regular fixture in Montréal’s DIY scene, Ky Brooks has worn many hats over the years. Perhaps best known as leader of the of noise-punk three-piece Lungbutter, whilst also featuring in Femmaggots and Nag, Ky is a recording engineer and house tech across many Montréal venues, as well as a live sound person for hypnotic sludge titans, BIG|BRAVE.

You could say music and creation is their life, and taking all the sonic miscellany of their far-reaching past, Ky hurls their ideas against the wall; the fragments seemingly the premise to Power Is The Pharmacy.

A genre-straddling outlier punk odyssey, Power Is The Pharmacy is a mash-up embodying soul. A thousand yard stare where socio-political observation, constant power struggles, every day anxieties and fear of loss are themes that provide the foundation to Ky’s array of skewed noise.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT: “Darling The Dawn”

With the remnants of the album developed alongside BIG|BRAVE’s Mat Ball prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the guitarist features heavily on the backend of Power Is The Pharmacy, his inclusion isn’t the only one. While Ky is undoubtedly at the wheel, their merry band of miscreants includes appearances from Nick Schofield (synths), Egyptian Cotton Arkestra’s James Goddard (saxophone), Gong Gong Gong’s Joshua Frank (bass), Shining Wizard’s Farley Miller (drums) and Bosque Rojo’s Andrés Salas (guitar/vocals).

Undoubtedly a new form of no wave psychedelic fury, Ky’s disjointed dispatches are delivered with the intention to unsettle and fry the mind in equal measure. A sci-fi inspired choose-your-own-adventure scenario, sonically at least, it could be argued that Power Is The Pharmacy is split into four parts.

On the opening title track, Power Is The Pharmacy (Teeth) Ky begins with an atmospheric poem (“It’s like having a second secret set of teeth / That do the opposite of what teeth do”). Backed by a sequence of scrambled jazz that rises in thick curls of smoke, it’s almost like having an acid trip on the moon.

Ky - Power Is The Pharmacy

Next is All The Sad And Loving People – a song written about Lungbutter drummer, Joni Sadler, who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2021. While said to be the most direct song Ky has written, the skewed sequence of auto tune is seemingly used as a blanket to masquerade the pain.

The jazz inflections of Work that Superficially Looks Like Leisure passes off a narcotic effect. Then there’s Ky’s spoken-word address that could be mistaken for a cult leader rallying their herd somewhere in the rolling hills of California.

From here, Power Is The Pharmacy takes a number of hairpin turns, starting with The Dancer – a cinematic rave-like number which haunts and thrills within the blink of an eye. In the context of this record, it feels like a fever dream. Ironic given that Ky admits as much on the next cut, Revolving Door (“In the morning I approached my dream / And I stole its magic”).  Backed by the rumbling tone and screaming white noise of Ball on guitar, alongside Dragons, Ky unapologetically recounts her punk roots throughout these passages.

FACS: Still Life In Decay

It quickly evaporates on the bourgeoning Listen! Avoid Magic! Be Aware! Here we are met with Power Is The Pharmacy’s most captivating moment. Taking inspiration from Jarboe, this shining juncture is yet another shape shifting moment during an album that contains many.

Inspired by the decay of urban space due to scourge of gentrification and capitalism, the dizzying jazz vibe of Elvin Silverware is closely aligned to the album’s opening track (No smoking! /Okay smoking!”). Once the simple things in life, now strangled by rules and righteousness of this bleak New World, here Ky captures the paranoia and anxiety via sharp, succinct observations.

And it feeds into the closing track, The Replacement  – a crooning, noirish jazz infused encounter that is like being thunderstruck by a dream from another world. In many ways, that’s what Power Is The Pharmacy feels like. A record that obliterates sonic ideologies with the kind of danger we associate with the origins of punk. And while some may consider punk as a sound and not an attitude, Ky most certainly has their foot in the camp of the latter.

Power Is The Pharmacy kicks against everything, and with something that feels part Lynchian, part William Gibson, it possibly apes punk itself. So twisted by design and execution, the haphazardness of Power Is The Pharmacy is its most scintillating quality.

It begs the question: can anyone go beyond it?

Power Is The Pharmacy is out via Constellation. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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